Arizona Wildcats defeat NAU 41-10 in season opener

Arizona vs. NAU: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

The Arizona Wildcats defeated the NAU Lumberjacks 41-10 Saturday night, ending the five-game losing streak that extended back to October 2010. Even though the first game exposed a few weak points for the Wildcats, they were able to get it together in the second half after holding just a four point lead at halftime. Here's the Good, Bad and the Ugly from Arizona's first game.

The Good:

- Derek Earls and the D-line:

Senior linebacker Derek Earls finished the game with six tackles, including five solo tackles on Saturday. His physical presence, along with good performances from Arizona's defensive ends C.J. Parish and Mohammed Usman, helped to curb the NAU run game. Parish and Usman each finished with one sack.

- John Bonano:

The kickoff specialist looked like the first half's MVP. He kept NAU's starting position at its own 20 with six touchbacks on seven kicks. He averaged 69.3 yards per kickoff. Some in the ZonaZoo called for Bonano to try his, um, foot at place kicker with the continued struggles of Arizona's kicking game.

-Offense:

Quarterback Nick Foles completed 34 of 42 passes, 412 yards and threw for five touchdowns.

After a summer surrounded with mystery, Juron Criner looked to be in fine football shape, finishing with six catches for 151 yards.

Foles was able to spread the ball, completing touchdown passes to Criner, Keola Antolin, Gino Crump, Richard Morison and Austin Hill.

Until someone can shut down the Foles and his receivers, the air attack will be the sure-fire method for Arizona to get points on the board.

The Bad:

- Penalties: The Wildcats had 10 penalties for 74 yards and the inexperience of the offensive line showed with several false start penalties. UA had six total penalties in the fist half alone. Arizona will have to be sure of itself next week when it heads into a hostile Stillwater, Okla., environment. If the Wildcats want to go 2-0, they won't be able to make the same mistakes they did against NAU.

-Rushing: We all knew Arizona offensive threat lies in the passing game, but the running game was quite dismal - just a team total 75 yards. In fact, most of those yards belonged to Ka'Deem Carey who didn't see action until the fourth quarter.

To put it in perspective, NAU had a team total of 40 yards and the Lumberjack's Zach Bauman ran for 99 yards himself.

The Ugly:

-Special Teams: Just when we thought it couldn't get worse for the Arizona kicking game, it did. A botched snap, a missed field goal and a missed extra point were the highlights for Jaime Salazar who replaced Alex Zendejas on the kicking depth chart. So here are some questions:

1. At what point does head coach Mike Stoops take a page from USC head coach Lane Kiffin and just go for two points after every score?

2. Isn't it slightly embarrassing that the Wildcats went for it on 4th-and-11 instead of trying for a field goal?

3. When will Arizona fans stop holding their breaths every time the Wildcats try a PAT?

-Shaquille Richardson:

The sophomore cornerback, who is starting in place of the injured Jonathan McKnight, got picked on all night. He finished as Arizona's leading tackler, but that's because he got targeted all throughout the game and particularly in the second quarter when NAU mounted its attempt at a comeback. NAU's Cary Grossart was 16-of-17 for 145 yards in the first half. Richardson was defending Khalil Paden when he scored a 12-yard touchdown.

The Wildcats found their groove on defense in the second half, but only after Arizona switched to a nickel defense to help out Richardson.

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